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Word From the Experts: How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

Losing a loved one in a serious accident is one of the most traumatic experiences you can suffer.

Nothing can erase the pain, but there’s a legal solution to getting monetary compensation if someone else caused the accident.

When someone’s death occurs at the fault of another party (such as a car maker), their family members can sue for wrongful death. Such a case seeks damages for the loss incurred by the deceased’s dependants, like lost companionship, lost earnings, and funeral expenses.

Here’s an overview on how a wrongful death lawsuit works. You’ll find out what it is, the common causes, who can bring a wrongful death suit, and how to bring a wrongful death suit.

What’s a Wrongful Death Suit?

Representatives of the victim file a wrongful death suit when someone dies due to the wrongful or negligent act of another individual. In the case of a negligent or intentional homicide, the prosecutor can bring charges and start a criminal case against the party responsible.

However, the deceased’s family also has a civil option in bringing a wrongful death case against the party at fault for the death.

The deceased’s family can recover various damages. Some of these damages include the deceased’s pain and suffering before death, medical bills, and lost wages. A jury may also award compensation for the loss of financial assistance and companionship from the deceased.

What Makes up a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In any wrongful death case, the family of the deceased can bring a case that the death was due to the defendant’s actions. To have a successful wrongful death case, the deceased’s family must show:

  • That the defendant caused the victim’s death
  • The defendant was negligent, reckless, or intentionally caused the death of the victim, or that the accused was strictly liable in causing the victim’s death
  • There are surviving dependents and beneficiaries
  • The surviving dependents and beneficiaries have suffered financial loss after the victim’s death

Common Causes of Wrongful Death

Lawyers that focus on wrongful death lawsuits and claims are usually involved in various cases with familiar causes, such as:

  • Birth injuries
  • Medical malpractice
  • Product defects
  • Motorcycle, automobile, or truck accidents
  • Premises accidents
  • Occupational hazards and exposure
  • Assisted living and nursing home abuse and neglect
  • Criminal actions like stabbings, shootings, and blatant violence
  • Supervised activities like field trips, day care, and adult care

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit

A representative of the deceased’s family must bring forth a wrongful death case. In most cases, it’s the executor of the deceased’s estate who files the claim.

The deceased’s beneficiaries and dependants vary with states, so read more here.

Immediate Family Members

Immediate family members such as spouses, kids, and parents of singletons can file wrongful death suits in all states.

Distant Family Members

In some states, distant relatives like siblings and grandparents can file wrongful death claims.

For instance, a grandparent who’s looking after a child can sue for wrongful death.

Parents of a Dead Fetus

Some states allow parents to file a wrongful death suit if their fetus dies. Several other states don’t allow this. In those states, parents can only sue for wrongful death if the child was born alive and died shortly thereafter.

Life Partners, Putative Spouses, and Financial Dependents

In some states, a life or domestic partner, a putative spouse (someone who strongly believed they were in a marriage with the deceased), or a financial dependant can file a claim.

All People Who Suffer Financially

In some states, everyone who suffers financially due to the death can file a wrongful death case for lost support or care. This applies even if they aren’t related to the victim by blood or marriage.

What’s Statute of Limitations

Learning the statute of limitations in your state is an important step when filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state has its own time limits within which someone can bring a wrongful death suit.

For example:

  • The statute of limitations in Florida is two years from when the death occurred.
  • The statute of limitations is also two years in California.
  • The statute of limitations in Montana is three years.

In some cases, the wrongful death statute of limitations takes effect from the date of the death while in others it’ll take effect on “discovery of harm”.

For instance, if a doctor fails to diagnose cancer and the error isn’t discovered for years, the statute of limitations might not begin until the patient discovers cancer.

If your state’s statute of limitations has run out, then, unfortunately, you won’t be able to file a wrongful death suit.

How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

At first, your lawyer might try to settle your case by demanding compensation from the defendant. If your case isn’t settled here, your next move is to file a certain document known as a complaint to get the wrongful death case started.

The plaintiff is the individual filing the lawsuit while the defendant is the person hit with the lawsuit. The complaint gives the reasons why the defendant is being sued by the plaintiff. It also states the law supporting the plaintiff’s case and what damages are being demanded by the plaintiff.

A third party serves the complaint to the defendant.

The defendant has a specific time to respond to the complaint, like 20-30 days. This response is normally known as an answer. The reply states the defendant’s defense against the plaintiff’s claim and aims to get the plaintiff’s claim dismissed.

Hire an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If your loved one died due to another company’s or person’s negligence or wrongful actions, you should hire a local wrongful death attorney.

With more than 300 law firms across the country, Halt Lawyer Directory is the best resource for finding the right attorney for your needs.

For more legal information and advice about a wrongful death lawsuit or other cases, be sure to browse through our blog.

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